>>> Primal Urges
By staff writer Nathan DeGraaf

February 7, 2007

Nathan: I hate it when writers write about writing.
I hate it when bitches bitch about bitching.
What? I thought we were sharing.

I hate writing about writing. It’s one of the most pompous, arrogant, and conceited things a writer can do. And I was dead set against it until it was pointed out to me that I am pompous, arrogant, and conceited, so that kind of self-indulgent crap would be right up my alley. And I don’t even own an alley, so that’s nice.

Also, not to toot my own horn (don’t own one of those either, come think of it), but I do write with regularity here and on The Nate Way, and if all that practice hasn’t turned me into somewhat of a decent writer, then I really have a long way to go. And because, in my glorious almost-two years as a columnist here, I have received a grand total of eleven different emails asking for advice on writing, I figure I’ll tell you guys everything I know about throwing the shade (that’s a colloquialism). And it starts with the creative process.

The first thing you need to understand about the creative process is to leave it the hell alone. The creative process is not something that you need to understand, particularly. It’s kind of like a surfboard. Except it’s a different board every time you write. And if you try to figure out what you’re on and forget the wave beneath you, it crashes and your writing goes with it. I know that analogy didn’t make much sense, but neither does the creative process.

“I don’t get writer’s block; I just produce a sub-par product.”

When the writing is really going well, it feels like something new and unusual beneath my fingertips. My first instinct is always to ride it out aimlessly, which leads to babble, which leads to use of the delete key. The real secret is, when it hits you, to own it. Reign it in. Lasso it. Pull it in. Use whatever stupid cliché you want, just don’t lose control of that crazy ass process. She’s as mystifying as the ocean.

Fortunately, everything else I know about writing is a lot simpler than the creative process.

The second thing you need to understand is that you must read. A lot. I read a minimum of a book a week. If you can’t read, you can’t write. Really, it’s not a tricky concept.

Write all the time. That’s the third thing. And I mean every damn day. Writer’s block is a rationalization. I’ve typed it before and I’m typing it now: I don’t get writer’s block; I just produce a sub-par product.

As you’re writing all the time, eventually, you’ll stumble onto your voice. And really, that’s the most organic and natural way to find it. That’s how I found mine. But there is another way to find it (for those of you who just don’t have the time or patience), and that is to get to know yourself as quickly as possible. You may not like what you find, but your voice is exactly that: yours. And if you get to know yourself, it should follow (at least, that’s what I heard).

As you’re finding your voice, you also have to learn grammar. And learn to proofread. And then actually fucking proofread. These last steps are a bitch, but ain’t nothing all gravy-covered prime rib (except of course for gravy-covered prime rib).

I’m not saying that I know a whole lot about writing. I know I’m just some guy with an internet column on a website that lets us type “fuck,” and the truth of the matter is I couldn’t think of a column topic this week so I stole this topic from the Timeless Topic Crap Pile. Nevertheless, I hope I have helped out any would-be writers or current writers with my meager contribution to the “how to” crowd.

And to all of you who could give a crap about becoming a writer, sorry for wasting your time. All your money has already been returned to you.